So, let’s take four weeks of the summer, about a hundred kids, a comparable number of volunteers and see what we get!
Overall, what we get is not “Camp Hutchison”; rather, what we get is “utter chaos.” This time, though, Floris UMC has really got it right. We’re halfway through the Camp Hutchison program, and we’ve had no serious issues or problems. Minds are growing, hearts are changing, and a community is moving toward God.
I’ve volunteered with Camp Hutchison for the past four years. Even so, when I came in on Monday I felt a tight little knot in the pit of my stomach that wasn’t too far from performance anxiety. What if none of the campers responded to me? What if I accidentally injured a child? What if I slipped on a discarded banana peel, landed on a stray skateboard, and ended up flying down the hallways of the school, knocking down campers left and right, finally sliding into Command Central covered in comatose children and finger paint from Art class!?
Well, my first two concerns seem to be unwarranted. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that last one, but so far being careful, alert, and open to creative problem solving has kept the children safe, happy, and engaged.
When in charge of a group of children like the Raccoons, you start to understand what parenthood must have been like from the other side of the relationship. I can recall very well some of the conversations I had with my parents or teachers:
“Can I have another snack?”
“We don’t have enough for everyone to have more.”
“But I’m still hungry! And you’ve got some over there, I can see it!”
“You can’t have anymore.”
And so on… I’ve also learned what it’s like for your children to have a favorite parent that isn’t you (they adore my junior counselor, Maddie, as though she’s really their mother and not a teenager giving up a few weeks of her summer). In addition, I know what it means to be constantly and immediately “on call” for these little ones. We get fifteen minute breaks, and we’re grateful for them.
I’ve also learned that children are persistent, never forget a promise, and are terrible at keeping secrets. If you say “don’t tell Miss So-and-so that we did this,” then the next day when they walk into said teacher’s class they will instantly blurt it out. The best way to relay a message indirectly to another adult is to tell one of these kids, “It’s a secret, and Miss So-and-so can’t know about it.” The children will spill the beans, without hesitation or regret.
I’ve also relearned what a joy it is to be making a difference in the lives of children. At this age, we can affect them more deeply than at any later phase of their lives. Giving a child candy or helping them with their work is more than a trifle to these kids; it really matters—especially when they don’t get that sort of attention from their own parents.
We’re halfway through the program. To those of you who have been praying for the program, thank you so much for your prayers—and keep praying! To those of you who haven’t been praying, remember there’s no penalty for starting late! God bless you all for taking an interest in what He is doing at Hutchison ES through Floris UMC.